16 Apr 2012

Fighting in Kabul ends

9:29 pm on 16 April 2012

Heavy street fighting between militants and security forces in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul, ended Monday after 18 hours of gunfire, rocket attacks and explosions.

Battles had gripped the city's central districts through the night, with explosions and gunfire lighting up alleys and streets.

The Afghan Defence Ministry said 32 insurgents were killed in the attacks which paralysed Kabul's government district.

The diplomatic quarter and the country's parliament were major targets.

The Taliban launched multiple attacks in Kabul targeting Western embassies and the NATO force's headquarters, and in three provinces of Afghanistan.

Loud explosions and intense gunfire continued for much of the day between security forces and militants holed up in the central diplomatic area.

NATO helicopters launched strafing attack runs on insurgents hidden in a construction site overlooking the NATO headquarters and several embassies.

The Taliban militants fired automatic weapons at Afghan army special forces who responded with rocket-propelled grenades during street fighting in the capital.

The assault was one of the most serious on the capital since US-backed Afghan forces removed the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency that the attacks were the beginning of a "spring offensive" and had been planned for months.

The Taliban said the main targets were the German and British embassies and the headquarters of the NATO-led force.

Billows of black smoke rose from embassies while rocket-propelled grenades flew overhead. Heavy gunfire could be heard from many directions as Afghan security forces tried to repel Taliban fighters.

Several Afghan members of parliament joined security forces repelling attackers from a roof near the parliament.

Fighters also launched assaults in the provinces of Logar, Paktia and Nangarhar, the Taliban said. A foreign force base in Jalalabad was hit, and a blast went off near the city's airport.

The attacks in Kabul come a month before a NATO summit at which the United States and its allies are supposed to put finishing touches on plans for transition to Afghan security control.

NZ troops not involved

New Zealand's remaining Special Air Service troops in Kabul have not been involved in countering the latest insurgent attacks.

Most of the SAS contingent in Kabul have left as the operation officially ended at the end of last month.

A small number remain hand over the role of mentoring the Afghan Crisis Response Unit to soldiers from Norway,

The Defence Force says that the SAS no longer has a mandate to do anything and those that are still in Kabul are safe and secure and in lock-down.